NASHVILLE — At its most basic level, basketball is a simple game.
As Tennessee learned yet again on the road Tuesday night, it's hard to score when you're throwing the ball away or losing it to the other team.
Not that the Volunteers did much when they kept the ball, either.
They remained winless in road games this season with a listless performance in a 65-47 Southeastern Conference loss to Vanderbilt inside Memorial Gym.
"You have to embrace this type of situation," said UT coach Cuonzo Martin, who donned the orange blazer introduced by former coach Ray Mears in the 1960s and 1970s and popularized by immediate predecessor Bruce Pearl the past six seasons. "The good ones do. Guys with the ability and mental toughness, they embrace these situations. Some guys, they probably just don't have it.
"I just think it's in your chest more than anything. You have it or you don't. You have to have the ability to want to play on the road."
Much as in last week's overtime loss at Georgia, turnovers and poor shooting doomed the Vols (9-11, 1-4). Unlike the Bulldogs, though, Vanderbilt is an almost-certain NCAA tournament team that made UT pay for its repeated mistakes. The Commodores (15-5, 5-1) turned 25 UT turnovers into 30 points.
The Vols had 10 turnovers in the game's first 10 minutes. Vanderbilt jumped ahead 11-2 and delivered an early haymaker with a 13-0 run that increased its lead to 18. After UT chipped its deficit down to 14, the Commodores scored eight straight points for a 22-point lead just before halftime.
"That was mind-blowing," Martin said. "You've got to be able to take care of the ball. It's hard to point to one thing."
UT turned the ball over 20 times against Georgia last week. The 25 on Tuesday were a season high.
"I wish I knew so we could figure it out," said point guard Trae Golden, who made just two of 11 shots. "I think we're just rushing, getting caught up maybe in the crowd, and that's something that really hurts us. There's no way you can win an SEC basketball game on the road with that."
Freshman forward Jarnell Stokes, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Connecticut on Saturday, had the toughest time taking care of the ball. Along with 10 rebounds and six points, Stokes had seven turnovers and was one half of a double-technical foul in the first half with Vanderbilt big man Festus Ezeli that made him the top villain of the 14,316 in attendance.
"I just think he wasn't used to the physicality of it," said forward Jeronne Maymon, who led UT with 15 points and eight rebounds. "This was the most physical game that I've played in. He's just got to get his elbows up. His turnovers were all in the paint when they were swiping the ball from him as he was trying to go up."
Added Martin: "I think it will be a good thing for him, to really go through something like that. I thought it was a great lesson for him."
Jeffery Taylor carried Vanderbilt's offense by scoring 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, making all three of his 3-point shots and all four of his free throws and adding nine rebounds and four steals. John Jenkins, the SEC's leading scorer, added 16 points. The Commodores shot 48.5 percent in the first half and pushed their lead to 27 midway through the second half.
Freshman center Yemi Makanjuola, who hadn't scored a point since an 18-point outburst against The Citadel on Dec. 29, was UT's second-leading scorer with seven points. The 6-foot-9 Nigerian added six rebounds before he was ejected with 1:25 remaining in the game for a flagrant foul on Jenkins.
UT shot just 35 percent from the field and made seven less field goals (18) than turnovers.
"We didn't play up to our potential at all, and we talked about that in the locker room afterward," said freshman guard Josh Richardson. "We didn't play as hard as we could. We didn't really embrace the pressure, and we just kind of crumbled at first."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...